Royal Caribbean's first Asian captain spends half his CNYs at sea
Ushering in Chinese New Year means new clothes and new beginnings. For Captain Wu Huimin, the Year of the Pig is even more significant as he was recently appointed Royal Caribbean's first Asian cruise captain - his all-time "goal" after joining in 2014 and working as staff captain on Quantum of the Seas.
Given that the cruise line was founded in Norway, most of its captains hail from Scandinavia - until the 44-year-old took the helm.
He told The New Paper in an e-mail interview: "I consider my appointment a positive step towards the global nature of our company."
The timing could not have been better, as Royal Caribbean announced on Wednesday that it was heading into 2019 with record bookings and seeing higher demand from Chinese tourists (over half a million sail with the brand every year), sending its shares up as much as 7 per cent.
Captain Wu studied at Shanghai Maritime University, joined the cruise industry in 2000 and never looked back.
Having sailed with different merchant vessels and cruise lines for 24 years, he has spent "half of those years" celebrating Chinese New Year at sea instead of in his hometown of Qingdao, in the Shandong province of China.
Naturally, he has developed a set of traditions that he seeks to carry forward with his crew, including gathering all the passengers to count down to Chinese New Year together.
Royal Caribbean's cruises in Asia offer special holiday programmes during the season, including a reunion dinner complete with lo hei yusheng, festive-themed games, entertainment shows, decorations all around the ship and red packets for the children.
Captain Wu said: "I enjoy working across larger teams and interacting with people from different nationalities."
Still, he admitted that being away from his wife and 10-year-old son "does not get easier" over the years, but technology has helped him connect with loved ones back home.
He said: "On special occasions such as Chinese New Year, I will try to video-chat them to join in on their festivities if time permits."
This Chinese New Year, Captain Wu is excited that his family will be joining him on board Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas for the first time.
But his top priority is still the guests sailing with him this festive period. He said: "It is important that I focus on my role - delivering top-notch service and ensuring they arrive safely at their destination."